Review: “The Hotel Nantucket” by Elin Hilderbrand and “The Summer Place” by Jennifer Weiner

High stakes are heaped upon their secrets: Alessandra is “beautiful enough to get away with murder.” Chadwick Winslow, a fratty, moneyed son of Nantucket who joins the housekeeping staff, teases a terrible sin he committed for almost the entire 416 pages. Chad has to “do penance,” Hilderbrand unsubtly explains. “That’s what this job is all about — it’s an atonement.” But their truths, once revealed, don’t deliver on the hype.

Stylistically, Hilderbrand and, at times, Weiner overdo it on distracting, dated internet-y slang (“#relationshipgoals,” “bruh,” “smoke-show”) that barely survived a few quick digital eras, much less the glacial pace of publishing. By summer 2022, the Gael Greene-esque travel Instagrammer whose five-key rating is so coveted by the Hotel Nantucket would probably be on TikTok. (Readers trying to keep up with their own kids’ language might empathize.) “Gooiest marshmallow dreams,” Hilderbrand’s description of the hotel s’more kits, could also apply to the sex scenes between Lizbet and her new love interest, a chef named Mario Subiaco, who may or may not realize he’s speaking to her in Joe Cocker lyrics (“You are so beautiful to me”). Hilderbrand describes their “lovemaking” as a “storm,” but beyond proximity and mutual cuteness, I’m not sure why, exactly, these two fall for each other.

I’m more than happy to suspend disbelief — the last great book I read was Rachel Yoder’s “Nightbitch,” about a stifled mother who believes she’s morphing into a feral she-wolf. That premise was more convincing to me than much of the plot in Weiner’s “The Summer Place,” a family saga hinging on more than one 23andMe test result. I struggled to buy that Eli Danhauser, a kindly periodontist, would immediately recognize — on sight and out of context — the son of a woman he slept with 20 years ago. Ditto for the fact that said son, Gabriel Andrews, who grew up across the country, just so happens to be dating Eli’s daughter, Ruby. (Even Weiner acknowledges the improbability of this “one in a billion” entanglement.)

Though a wedding is handy for the plot, it seems anachronistic that Ruby, an ambitious, Brooklyn-bred N.Y.U. student, would spontaneously decide she wants to marry Gabe right after graduation, a decision she doubts just as quickly. Still more people fall in undying love for indiscernible reasons; at one point, two characters barely exchange words at a club, hook up and subsequently wake up soul mates. Most compelling is the matriarch Veronica Levy, a formerly famous author whose books are made into movies (evoking Weiner’s “In Her Shoes”). But would Ronnie really have said goodbye to all that because an indiscretion from her past made the New York lit world feel icky?

Weiner scratches at class and identity tensions through Ronnie: Her new-money summer place on Cape Cod clashes with those of the entitled “Pond People” who try to lay claim to her swimming spot — even if, as Weiner writes in a sentiment I underlined, “people on the Cape could own land right up to the shoreline” but “they could not own the water, either salt or brackish or fresh.”

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